I was honored to take on the role of Family Coordinator because I understand intimately what’s at stake for new families in the Hilltowns. When my husband and I moved here 7 years ago, we felt very isolated from our friends and family who were spread out throughout the country. Being busy with work obligations, we put off creating networks of local friends. When my daughter came along, I felt very alone. I didn’t know about It Takes a Village, and so I muddled through a challenging, lonely period. What should have been a happy time in my life was filled with turmoil. I wish I had known about the home visit volunteer program when I needed it most.
Sarah summed up the value in two words. “You rock!” When we asked her if her volunteer was a support to her family, she replied “Yes!!! She provided adult company, cleaned, baked, held the babe so I could clean and play with my eldest. She was so great with my 3 year old who called her grandma. She got me motivated to exercise and offered to do much more.” Corrina added that her volunteer gave her the “support to know that we could parent our new son. Our volunteer listened to each of our needs and was the first one to say OK let’s do it. She was willing and able and that made a huge difference.”
So what’s new on the family support front? We’ve been asking for feedback and listening to our families’ suggestions on how we can better serve our Village community. We heard from Jean, that she “wished I had known about the program sooner. I only learned about it after my son was here and 2 months old.” In fact, many moms shared those same thoughts. Admittedly, the first three months of a baby’s life can be a whirlwind. Dr. Harvey Karp popularized the phrase “the fourth trimester” (1) because an infant is so completely dependent on its caregivers and is extremely fragile, requiring near constant attention (2). It is an overwhelming time for everyone. For the lucky moms, family and friends often come to visit and are more than willing to offer a helping hand. As time goes on, however, the perception is that families have got the baby thing “handled” and so fewer offers of help are given. Moreover, many new moms don’t “want to be a bother” or feel as though “everyone is so busy. I hate to ask for help.” In days past and in other cultures, moms don’t need to ask for help. Their village helps when not asked.
That’s where WE come in. Life after baby can be a fragile time, not only for baby, but for mom as well. While postpartum depression often happens within the first 3 months of delivery, it can come on any time up to a year after baby is born (3, 4). Because of this, and based on the feedback and input from our Village moms, we have decided to extend our service time from the first three months postpartum. Moms and their home visit volunteers can discuss what will work best, but our volunteers can assist 2 hours per week for up to 12 weeks any time during baby’s first year. In addition, based on need, we can assist prenatally for moms who are required to be on bed rest. Finally, we took a look at our service map and realized there were Hilltown nooks that we hadn’t been supporting. We are happy to announce that we have extended our service area to include Hilltown communities in Hampden and Berkshire Counties, along with Hampshire and Franklin County. If we can find a local volunteer, we will provide home visit support for moms throughout the Hilltowns.
That’s where YOU come in. If you know of a family with a newborn that needs our help, please pass on our information. We are here to help.
And if you would like to become a village volunteer, please give us a ring at 413-650-3640.
1. Karp, Harvey. “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” 2003: Bantam Books, New York. http://www.happiestbaby.com/
2. Amodei, Katie. “Baby’s Fourth Trimester: Helping Your Baby Make a Smooth Transition from Womb to World.” Parent Map. https://www.parentmap.com/article/babys-fourth-trimester-helping-your-baby-make-a-peaceful-transition-from-womb-to-world
3. U.S. National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health. “Postpartum Depression.” Medline Plus.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007215.htm
4. Stone, Katherine. “Frequently Asked Questions About Postpartum Depression & Related Illnesses.” Postpartum Progress. http://www.postpartumprogress.com/frequently-asked-questions-on-postpartum-depression-related-illnesses